With growing membership and increased interest in their sport, the past year has been a busy one for the All Terrain Vehicle Association of Nova Scotia (ATVANS).
Among other initiatives, the group has invested a significant amount of money and time digitizing all of its trails on maps and grids.
“Our trails coordinator Corey Robar along with one of our contractors has been busy working getting things into a digital format so we can narrow down what we are missing from the trail network,” says ATVANS executive director Barry Barnet.
“Altogether we probably have several thousand kilometres of trail that we would have land use agreements on or have exclusive authority. Plus we have another two or three thousand kilometres on top of that.”
In addition to helping them hammer down the amount of trail across their membership network, Barnet says the initiative will make it easier for members to produce trail guides, focus on resolving connectivity issues and help with funding applications.
Another initiative undertaken by ATVANS this past year was the development of its first multi-year strategic plan.
“This gives us a little more direction,” Barnet explains.
“The plan followed a membership-wide survey on issues and that has led to an initiative of reaching out to government to find ways to address some of our concerns with respect to the OHV act and how we are operating.”
Membership in the organization is strong. Barnet says they’re holding steady at 39 member clubs, the highest number they’ve ever had.
“Last year we had just about 3,000 members and we count membership by the number of machines. That probably represents closer to 5,000 people,” he says.
Barnet says while the sport isn’t growing in larger provinces like Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta, it is increasing in popularity here in Nova Scotia.
“In 2014 we saw 12 per cent growth in sales of new machines year over year,” he says. “One of the other things we’ve seen is a big shift in our sport of events getting bigger and bigger. We’ve seen some of our regional events attracting 1,000 machines.”
In addition to the fact it tends to be a family-oriented activity, Barnet said it caters to nature lovers, an aging demographic and those with mobility issues.
“If you have any kind of mobility issues there is no other way to experience that trail experience, and to some extent I personally fall into that category,” Barnet says.
“When you look at the demographics of our membership, they are typically middle aged, middle income folks with common interests like hunting and fishing. They also often have a nature background or nature-related experience.”
The increasing numbers of families and people with mobility issues also accounts in part for the increased sales of side-by-side machines.
“The advent of side-by-sides has brought a whole new group of people to our sport. Husbands and wives can sit side-by-side and have conversations now for example,” Barnet says.
“It has also created that opening to deal with mobility issues. Right now we have about two-thirds of members on traditional ATVs with one-third having side-by-sides.”
Barnet said his organization, like many others, is always looking for ways to encourage greater youth participation. Last year ATVANS created a youth volunteer of the year award. This year’s award was recently handed out to 13-year-old Adam Berry of the Central Nova ATV Club.
“He has been involved with his club since 2007, so that means he was just seven years old when he started,” Barnet says.
“Adam, along with his father and grandfather, work on trails. And he works hard. He also helps organize events and he’s not even legal driving age yet. This is the kind of initiative we like to encourage.”